Devin “Anytime” Hester is the most popular member of the Chicago Bears franchise. Hester #23 is often cited as the top-selling Bears jersey, along with Brian Urlacher. Although Jay Cutler’s #6 is currently the number-one item per NFLShop.com, the recent acquisition must take at least one snap within a Bears uniform before I may award him with the crown.
Devin Hester is a YouTube sensation, marketing machine, and the most electric game changer to don a Bears uniform since Gale Sayers. Hester is a pure athlete that fashions himself after Deion Sanders, his Florida State and NFL idol. The Windy City Flyer actually became acquainted with Prime Time through former University of Miami stalwart Ed Reed.
Yes, Hester’s scintillating athleticism was already on full display at Miami. Hester is noted as the only Hurricane of the modern era to play offense, defense, and special teams. This playmaker emerged as a walking highlight reel per his other worldly 4.27 40-yard dash speed, gravity defying balance, and mystifying shake and bake moves. Still, Hester is more so a raw athlete than a technician and classroom student of the Game.
In fact, Bears Nation even questioned spending the 57th overall pick of the 2006 NFL Draft upon this football player. Chicago fans were pining for a more polished force at wide receiver that could step in immediately to manufacture scores for this historically offensively inept franchise.
Devin Hester was to quickly destroy these counter arguments with his play on the field.
Devin Hester, Chicago Bears Return Specialist and Wide Receiver Scouting Report
Devin Hester was the Chicago Bears offense for large swaths of 2006 and 2007.
Yes, Thomas Jones did rumble for 1,210 yards in 2006 – but the workhorse back is a grinder and far from an explosive game changer. In fact, Jones’ longest carry that year totaled 30 yards. Of course, Jones was to be let go in 2007 to make way for the mercurial Cedric Benson. Benson, the fourth overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft proved to be a total bust and was dismissed by the Bears after one short season as the featured back.
Devin Hester was the offense.
Hester’s jaw dropping speed translated into 7 punt return and 4 kick return touchdowns over his first two seasons, which set Bears franchise records. Hester also set a then NFL record 108-yard return touchdown play with an incredible field goal miss return versus the 2006 Giants. The water bug gamely held the ball deep in the end zone, stalled, and waited for the Giants to lazily mosey off the playing field before turning on the jets and sailing into the clear for the touchdown.
Devin Hester was the Bears lone bright spot at Super Bowl XLI and reigns as the only man to ever return the opening Super Bowl kickoff for a score.
Anytime was a threat to go the distance at any moment and averaged an outrageous 26.4 yards per kick return as a rookie.
On October 16, 2006, the Chicago Bears committed six turnovers and managed a meager 38 yards rushing versus the Arizona Cardinals. Yet, the Bears still won 24 – 23 largely upon the strength of Hester’s game-winning 83-yard punt return in the fourth quarter. Arizona’s debacle on prime – time television led to Dennis Green’s infamous meltdown:
“They are who we thought they were!”
Yes, the Chicago Bears are an offensively wretched franchise that wins with special teams and defense. Head Coach Lovie Smith was to combat these challenges by shifting Hester from cornerback to wide receiver and slowly integrating this spark plug into the offense.
Devin Hester, Wide Receiver Profile
Devin Hester must prove that he is actually a viable wide receiver.
Although his move out of the defensive backfield arrived with much fanfare, he has largely proven to be little more than a gimmickry gadget player at wide out. Hester is still learning his craft as an every down football player and has been privy to maddening stretches of drops, fumbles, misreads, and outright confusion.
Basically, Hester’s greatest successes at wide receiver have come on “Go” routes. For casual fans, the go route is best described as running perfectly straight at full speed before catching the football. Bears Nation caught a glimpse of Hester’s potential at wide receiver with his 2007 81-yard touchdown catch versus the Minnesota Vikings, in which he simply out ran the defense.
Devin Hester was moved to full time wide receiver in 2008 and caught 51 balls for 665 yards and 3 touchdowns. These are hardly the numbers of a leading wide out and the fact that running back Matt Forte and tight end Greg Olsen battled for more touches within Chicago’s twenty-first ranked passing game is quite disturbing. Bears Nation became increasingly agitated with the move as Hester degenerated towards a non – factor within the very same return game that was his original bread and butter.
Obviously, running 30 minutes worth of wind sprints, as a receiver will leave little left in the tank for special teams.
Still, true wide receivers work the route tree to expose holes in the defense.
Hester must show the ability to probe zone coverage for comebacks, hooks, and hitches. He should also recognize that he rarely faces pure man-to-man looks. The opposition typically posts a deep safety over the top to counter his blazing speed. Hence, the Bears coaching staff will partner with Hester to integrate outs, drags, and 15-yard square-ins amidst the playbook.
Offseason acquisition Jay Cutler will be more than happy to oblige. The new quarterback is noted for his strong arm and delivers the ball in a hurry. Hester will be required to turn and catch these lasers without fighting the football for drops and breaking his fingers, at worst.
Essentially, Devin Hester must learn how to play wide receiver in the NFL.
The Bears 2008 9-7 record left this organization at the doorstep of the NFL Playoffs. The Jay Cutler trade has been packaged part and parcel with Hester’s development at wide receiver in order to finally open up the offense, so that the Chicago Bears may begin to win now. Hopefully, this raw athlete will be up to the challenge.
Remember, Devin Hester is still ridiculous.
Devin Hester, Chicago Bears Return Specialist and Wide Receiver, Sources:
The Official Web Site of the Chicago Bears, http://www.chicagobears.com/index.html
Devin Hester Exclusive Web Site, http://www.devinhesterautographs.com/
The Unofficial Web Site of Devin Hester, http://www.devinhester.net/
ESPN, Devin Hester Profile, http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/players/profile?playerId=9643
Pro Football Reference, NFL Stats, http://www.pro-football-reference.com/